New examples of AI challenging not only our (human) concepts of creative artistry, but also the accompanying legal and royalty infrastructures around it, seem to be appearing every day.

Drake, of course, is involved again, and it’s a variant on yesterday’s Fake Drake story: except this time, an anonymous songwriter took it all one step further, creating new song, “Heart On My Sleeve”, which featured an AI-powered Drake/The Weeknd vocal “collaboration“. Listener reactions were mixed, but it quickly gained hundreds of thousands of listens, and songs like this pose a novel problem: if fans of both artists love the track – should it, or should it not, be released? And who gets paid, and how, and why? (The Drake/Weeknd track has been taken down from many DSPs, but you can still find it online).

Major labels are being very careful to explain that they are embracing AI technology and are forward-facing in their outlook around the changes it may bring – and yet, they are also looking very carefully at these latter questions, positioning themselves as guardians of human artistry. They’ll have to deal with increasingly complex ideas, which are coming thick and fast now. Here’s an example of the legal vagueness in the space that AI is stepping into: the voices of two dead Israeli singers, Ofra Haza and Zohar Argov, are to be heard collaborating on a new song, with the blessing of the two singers’ estates. Oudi Antebi, CEO & co-founder of Session 42, the company that produced the song, explained to the Jerusalem Post that “the entire ethical and legal concept here is new territory,” which required close collaboration with the singers’ families.

Meanwhile, one of the winners of the Sony World Photography Awards 2023 has subsequently rejected the award, revealing that he had created it using AI, and asked the awards organisers to instead donate his prize to a Ukrainian photography festival. German artist Boris Eldagsen said he had submitted the image out of impishness but also to make a point: “I applied as a cheeky monkey, to find out if the competitions are prepared for AI images to enter. They are not,” he wrote on his website.

The World Photography Organisation told Motherboard that Eldagsen had “deliberately” misled them. The artist’s response: “STOP SAYING NONSENSE and join the discussion that really matters.” Eldagsen’s blog post details a long process of communication with the awards team; which raises the question of whether large creative organisations and bodies are sure of how to respond to the presence of creative AI in an agreed and clear way.

And the money continues to flow into AI: MBW reports that voice and music AI company SoundHound has closed a $125m loan facility (just months after the company laid off 40% of its staff), a sign of the confidence in both the tech and VC space that creative AI is on track to generate significant income.

So at the moment we may have a situation that feels slightly familiar to anyone working in the music industry in the early 2000s: on one side, an established music industry flush with cash from royalties from the supply of recorded music; on the other, a series of disruptive technologies that threatens to eat into that cashflow. The big rightsholders are aware of this similarity, and are aware that the approach last time – using legal pressure to try to halt filesharing – famously did not work out so well. And yet, these rightholders do need to make strong (and possible legal) decisions to confidently shore up their position: if AIs have been trained on licensed recordings or familiar voices, rightsholders will want to know about it, clarify where the legal line is, and decide how to work within this new paradigm.

Music Ally’s next Learn Live webinar will help you understand what’s required for artists to thrive in new international markets!

Joe Sparrow

Joe SparrowEditor

Editor, Music Ally

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *